A crisis or emergency is a high stress time for everyone. It is especially important to have high energy foods available during these times. Food that is high in calories (even empty calories) is recommended for these times. If you plan ahead, you can have meals that are not only high in energy, but also nutritious.
You can live several days without food if you have water to drink, but you won’t be very comfortable when you are used to eating three meals a day plus snacks. Besides the nutritional benefit you gain from the food, there is also a positive psychological benefit of doing things the way you did before a disaster. Eating three meals a day will help make the stressful time seem more like normal.
Food will probably be provided at an emergency shelter for you and your family, but government officials and relief agencies usually take 72 hours to get set up. You have the responsibility to be self reliant and plan your own meals for those three days. Foods that are lightweight, compact, and require little preparation are the most suitable for your 72 hour kit. Since an emergency situation is not the time to try out new and unusual foods that your family is unaccustomed to, you should try out your emergency foods before you need them. Whenever possible, stick to simple tastes that you are used to.
Consider these possibilities:
Foods that provide sugar energy and are comfort foods are good to pack in your 72 hour kits. These types of food include chocolate, hard candy, dry sugar cereal, fruit bars, etc. In high stress situations your body requires a higher caloric intake, not just nutrition. For those who can’t eat sugar, pack alternative high caloric food such as peanut butter, dried fruit, and sugar-free candy.
Compressed Food Bars
Compressed food bars include granola bars, trail bars, and high calorie food bars that are sealed for long term storage. These are lightweight, nutritious, and high in calories, making them a good choice for your 72 hour kit.
Survival Drink Mixes
These types of drink mixes are high in protein, vitamin and mineral content, such as protein drinks, diet drinks, and survival drink mixes. These should be just-add-water-mixes, so you must remember to store extra water just for mixing these drinks. Remember that any diet drink mixes you include should be high in protein and not just for weight loss.
Trail mixes can be made of ingredients such as granola, raisins, nuts, seeds, dried fruit, or chocolate chips. They are very tasty and full of energy and nutrition. You can make your own trail mix to accommodate your family’s taste, but be aware that it could become rancid if you try to store it for a long period of time. Storing trail mix in your refrigerator or freezer is a good way to preserve its shelf life.
Dried foods, such as fruit and meat (jerky) are excellent additions to your 72 hour kit. They are tasty, nutritious and satisfying, and they can make up a part of a meal.
Freeze dried foods are probably the best tasting, most “normal” things you can pack in your 72 hour kit to supply you and your family with a “real” meal. They are lightweight and easy to prepare, but require extra water and some cooking. Plan ahead by storing the water that you need and a way to heat it.
Instant Soups, Meals, & Milk
Instant soups and meals, (such as cup of noodles, cup of soup, and instant mashed potatoes) are a great way to supplement meals for three days. They are lightweight and easy to pack in your 72 hour kit. Instant milk is a good way to make sure you get the calcium you need. These items also require additional water to use.
MRE’s (Meals ready to eat)
MRE’s, designed for the military, are the easiest meals you can put in your 72 hour kit. They have an incredibly long shelf life (up to 10 years when stored at temperatures below 70 deg. F) which makes them an easy solution for a 72 hour kit. MRE’s also do not require cooking, water, or any preparation. For more information on MRE’s see the Insight article entitled MRE- Meals Ready to Eat.
Snack foods are an essential part of a 72 hour kit. If you eat snacks during normal times, you will want snacks during emergencies too. Plus snacks are a good way to help relieve the stress of emergency situations. You can store snack-packs of cheese and crackers, packages of crackers or nuts, or peanut butter snacks. MRE snacks are a good way to store snacks because they can be stored for 5 or more years and they taste good.
For Babies or Toddlers
If you have a nursing baby, you should pack formula in case you aren’t able to nurse because of shock or stress. Include both powdered formula and liquid formula in case water is not available to mix the powdered formula. Include baby food for an older baby or toddler. Instant cereal, fruits, and vegetables are a good choice. Remember to store extra water to reconstitute these items, and to update your 72 hour kit as your baby grows.
Equipment and Utensils
Sometimes when you are planning your food menu, you forget that you need certain utensils to cook and eat with. Essential cooking items include:
• small cooking pots
• spoons, forks, knives, (plastic or metal)
• Sierra cups (metal camping/backpacking cups that you can heat food in or drink from)
• mess kits or camp plates
• napkins or paper towels
• small, trial size of dish soap
• hot pad or wash cloth
• can opener
• waterproof matches or matches in waterproof container
• canned solid fuel and folding stove
• zip lock bags
As you plan your 72 hour kit, you must also remember the little extras that make life more comfortable, such as: toilet paper, diapers, wipes, first aid kit, toothpaste, soap, razors, reading material, stress relieving games, and so forth. If you put a little planning into your 72 hour kit, you and your family won’t need to panic when an emergency occurs.